Minister discusses new AgriSearch strategy during tour of potential “Beacon” farm in Ahoghill.

Date published: 04 December 2020

Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots has met with AgriSearch to discuss its new strategy, in particular plans to develop a new ‘Beacon’ network of farms, and the potential for future collaboration with DAERA.

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots is pictured with (left to right) Harold Johnston, farm owner; Jason Rankin, General Manager; John Henning OBE, Senior Vice-Chair; Peter Morrow, Vice-Chair and Seamus McCaffrey, Chairman AgriSearch

AgriSearch was formed in 1997 to provide a mechanism through which beef, dairy and sheep farmers could have direct involvement in production orientated research. Funds contributed to AgriSearch are used to commission research into the improvement and development of beef, sheep and dairy farming.

AgriSearch’s guiding principal is to provide practical benefit for primary producers to reduce costs, improve performance, drive innovation and improve welfare.  

Recognising that the Research and Development (R&D) landscape is changing, and seeking to remain relevant and to deliver value for money for its levy payers, AgriSearch conducted a farmer survey, consulted with a wide range of stakeholders and set up an Expert Working Group to review its current strategic model and make recommendations to inform a new vision and strategy. 

This will include AgriSearch:

  • Being an independent voice, a body of expertise and authority identifying future research needs;
  • Working with government, industry and academia with a focus on building influence and developing partnership rather than just leveraging of funding; and
  • Establishment of a Beacon-farm network to demonstrate latest farming systems that deliver for people, profit and planet and to quantify ecosystem services delivered by farmers.

AgriSearch envision that Beacon farms will provide a structured network of farms which can be used for research with farmer’s demonstrating new farming systems.  Building on the success of the current GrassCheck network the Beacon Farm Network will include a range of dairy, beef and sheep systems from across Northern Ireland. 

The network intends to demonstrate a holistic systems approach which delivers for people, planet and profit, and to provide contributions towards benchmarks for carbon sequestration and the benefits of ecosystem services delivered by farmers. 

Welcoming the news that AgriSearch is reviewing its Strategy, Minister Poots said, “Through the Science Transformation Programme my Department is developing new science strategies, which includes new innovation, R&D, monitoring and surveillance, and estates strategies. I agree that driving behavioural and cultural change is fundamental in improving uptake of new initiatives in our farming sector and I look forward to seeing AgriSearch developing collaborative partnerships to help deliver results through this new approach in the future.

“Getting the most from our grassland is a key priority for NI agriculture, and I know this farm and many others have benefitted from the information and advice AgriSearch has provided over the years.

“I look forward to seeing how AgriSearch develops ‘Beacon’ network of farms through the delivery of its new strategy.”

Notes to editors: 

1. AgriSearch have indicated that the main focus of their operations to date has been to maximise their leveraged funding in R&D.  Between 1997 and 2019 AgriSearch levered £50m of external funding from £8m of levy funding. This has mainly included:

  • DAERA Directed AFBI Research Work Programme (DDARWP)
  • DAERA Research Challenge Fund (RCF)
  • Agri-Food Quest Competence Centre
  • EU Horizon 2020
  • Partnering with GB levy bodies (AHDB, QMS and HCC)

2. As well as the DDARWP, AgriSearch has benefitted from the Department’s Research Challenge Fund (RCF),  a grant scheme supporting industry led consortia to deliver R&D projects from 2010-2017.

3. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office

4. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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